May 16th, 2006

Egg Roll of Independence

Posted by natdavauer in Around the World

It is our last night in Asia and I am feeling nervous.

We arrived in Bangkok from Hanoi a couple days ago and I have never felt so happy to set foot in the West. Granted, it wasn’t “The West,” but it was westward.

There is a beauty in the unknown whatever it may be. This is the reason we travel. These places and ways of life that seem impossible while watching the evening news (just kidding, we don’t watch the evening news) are actually real. You can visit them. You can walk there, you can eat there and you can go to the bathroom there (as uncomfortable as that may be). To realize the couch is sitting on a very small piece of the planet and the local news is just that: local, is a beautiful feeling.

Alternatively, there is a beauty in the familiar. This is also why we travel. When you leave your comfort zone to see, smell and go to the bathroom all over the world, you start to forget home. Months pass and you find yourself arguing with a pedal-cab driver about how getting you lost for ten minutes is not an added service to the prior deal made about getting straight from A to B and should not cost an extra ten cents. It’s at this point that you stumble upon something that looks like home and it’s beautiful. It’s normal, downright boring because you’re so used to it, but it’s beautiful. A song. A Midwestern accent. A pastry.

Like a constellation, home always looks the same from home. Once you move to the side a bit (astronomically speaking, a few million miles), you realize that the stars of the Big Dipper are nowhere near each other and in no way resemble a serving utensil. They do however, resemble something new. From every direction you look at them they resemble something else new and different.

To put it another way, the background to your world view may not be flattering to the object you’re trying to view. Michelangelo’s David would look flat and boring if he stood in front of a white marble wall. If you moved around him until there was a black background his… um, features would pop out. If you never bothered to “check him out” from this angle, you might not appreciate his qualities. Um, ok enough of that analogy.

I’m nervous because this perspective is fragile. Once I change the background of my view, things will start to loose their contrast. America may be disappointing at home right now, but when I see an American flag here I think of old faded documents and curly haired idealists. When I see a cop here choose to arrest someone who he knows will bribe him because he needs a new uniform (which he has to buy himself), I don’t think about illegal wiretaps. When I walk on the bones of citizens slaughtered because they were musicians and academics, I don’t think about our president, I just think about how great home is. I know I still care about the troubles of my own country, I just don’t right now and I want to savor that feeling.

Just like the smell of the bathrooms, this perspective will stay here as we head farther west until Asia is a memory. We will carry some with us, but it will slowly erode as the faces on the nightly news rehash the same story for the millionth timeĀ and turn the stars back into a dipper. We will fall into our comfortable habits and enjoy easy life for while, and then one day while eating a pastry, I will wish it was an egg roll. I will remember that this a great place but it’s not the only place in the world and wonder: what makes it so great anyway?

One Response to ' Egg Roll of Independence '

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  1. Ami said,
    on May 19th, 2006 at 9:28 am

    I miss you guys SOOOO much! But I absolutely LOVE reading about your adventures! You are truly experiencing things that are very very rare & wonderful.


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